This Day in Black History: June 20, 1967

Cassius Clay was convicted of violating Selective Service laws.

Posted: 06/20/2012 07:00 AM EDT
Cassius Clay was convicted of violating Selective Service laws on June 20, 1967.

Before he became known for "The Fight of the Century" with undefeated champion Joe Frazier and his "Rumble in the Jumble" with George Foreman, Muhammad Ali, née Cassius Clay, had already made headlines: He was convicted and sentenced on June 20, 1967, to five years in prison and fined $10,000 for violating Selective Service laws for refusing to be drafted into the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. Lawyers for the world heavyweight champion, then 25 years old, who had become a Muslim in 1967, argued that as a minister of his faith he was exempt.

 

The all-white jury of six men and six women took only 20 minutes to deliberate and no one was surprised by their verdict, The New York Times reported at the time. Clay appealed the felony conviction, which the U.S. Supreme Court overturned in 1971 by a vote of 8-0, with the court's only African-American, Justice Thurgood Marshall, abstaining.

 

 

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(Photo: Robert Abbott Sengstacke/Getty Images)

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